Following a state law expanding the medical conditions qualifying for medical cannabis, the Texas Department of Public Safety will begin accepting applications for medical cannabis dispensaries in October.
The Texas Compassionate Use Program initially only allowed patients suffering from intractable epilepsy to obtain medical cannabis — which cannot contain more than 0.5% of tetrahydrocannabinols. The list of qualifying conditions expanded to include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, autism and terminal cancer in June after House Bill 3703 became law.
According to a Sept. 16 release on the Texas DPS website, the department said it will accept applications for cannabis dispensery licenses from Oct. 1 to Nov. 1 in anticipation of an increase in demand for low-THC cannabis. Approvals will be based on cannabis producution capabilities and demand from patients, according to the release.
Morris Denton, CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, an Austin medical cannabis dispensary, said a patient must be under the care of a doctor registered in the Compassionate Use Registry in order to qualify to receive medical cannabis. Then, if the patient has one of the approved conditions, he said they are eligible for a medical cannabis prescription.
“It’s a reflection of the state’s belief and understanding that this is a program that is only going to grow,” Denton said. “As a result, they want to be prepared for when the patient demand reaches the point where it’s difficult for three licensees to serve 100% of that demand.”
According to the department’s website, the department received 43 applications in 2017, though only three were approved after the Texas Compassionate Use Program was passed. Currently, these are the only three medical cannabis dispensaries functioning in the state.
Bratzzo Banich is the president of Texas Horns for Cannabis, a student organization that informs students about the cannabis industry.
Banich said he has friends and family who have used cannabis for self-medicating and have been prescribed medical marijuana. He said the cap on THC levels in Texas limits the ability of medical cannabis and the state needs more dispensaries.
“When I broke my hand, I didn’t really have insurance to go to the doctor here in Austin,” Banich said. “I was taking care of myself. No matter how much pain medication I took, it didn’t really seem to help. I started taking small doses of cannabis, and that’s really what got me to focus on anything other than the pain in my hand.”
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijauna Policy, said she is glad to see lawmakers moving the conversation about medical cannabis, but some conditions are still being left out.
“There are so many other conditions that really need to be included in this program, and frankly, it should be up to the doctors and the patients to be making this decision rather than the state legislature,” Fazio said.
Fazio said potential companies need to be fully aware of the costs and risks of licensing and operating a medical cannabis company.
“The companies that are licensing now and are going to be licensed have to be looking at this as an investment into the future because there is so little client base for them,” Fazio said.